Sri Lanka wants EU to ban LTTE
The Sri Lankan government on Sunday appealed to the international community to thwart the LTTE's bid to foment inter-ethnic violence on the scale of the infamous riots in 1983.
The government is also holding discussions with the European Union (EU) to secure a ban on the LTTE, in case it continues to indulge in unprovoked violence and dodge peace talks.
The EU has already slapped a "travel ban" on the leaders of the LTTE. But the government is now pressing the EU to consider listing the LTTE as a terrorist organisation.
Addressing the media here, government spokesmen Keheliya Rambukwella said that through its murderous activities in Trincomalee, some directed at civilians, the LTTE was trying to foment communal violence of the 1983 kind to make political capital out of it.
"They want to make gains out of bloodstains," he charged.
The government, for its part, was fully committed to peace and the resolution of the ethnic conflict through talks, he said.
It was doing everything possible, giving concession after concession, to make the LTTE come for the second round of talks in Geneva, Rambukwella said.
But it was also the bounden duty of the international community to help Sri Lanka in this regard, by mounting pressure on the LTTE to eschew the path of violence, he stressed.
"The international community, comprising the co-chairs of the Tokyo donors conference, the EU, the Norwegian peace facilitators, the Scandinavian truce monitors, and others interested in peace in Sri Lanka, should take note of this and mount pressure on the LTTE to call off the violence and come for talks with government," Rambukwela said.
At this point, the Director General of the government Peace Secretariat, Dr Palitha Kohona, said that the government was engaged in discussions with the European Union on the possibility of getting the LTTE listed as a terrorist organisation if it did not stop its violent activities and come for talks.
The Mahinda Rajapaksa government is extremely worried about the bid to foment a 1983 type of communal rioting, because 1983 had won great sympathy for the Tamils and Tamil militancy in the international community.
The riots brought a bad name to the Sri Lankan government, from which it could not extricate itself for decades.
The Rajapaksa government is therefore bending over backwards to prevent such a situation from arising again.
Spokesman Rambukwella pointed out that the violence in Trincomalee, precipitated by a terrorist bomb blast in a market, was brought under control within three hours because the President had rushed senior ministers to the spot.
But still the LTTE seemed bent on provoking the civilians and the armed forces as part of its "sinister plan", he said.
It is continuing to kill members of the Sri Lankan armed forces and civilians in the North East, he said.
According to the Military Spokesman, Brig Prasad Samarasinghe, on Saturday, there were three claymore mine blasts, killing one army officer and four civilians.
In retaliatory action in the last 24 hours, the security forces killed three terrorists in skirmishes in the East.
Govt offers larger helicopter to LTTE
Spokesman Rambukwella announced that the government had offered a larger helicopter to the LTTE in order to prevent the transport issue from becoming a stumbling block on the road to the peace talks in Geneva.
A Sri Lanka registered aviation company, which had earlier offered a smaller chopper, had told the government that it could supply a bigger one, the spokesman said.
The government's new offer had been conveyed to the LTTE through the Scandinavian truce monitors, Rambukwella said.
But while acceding to the LTTE's request for a jumbo chopper, the government had told the Norwegian facilitators and the Scandinavian truce monitors to secure an assurance from the LTTE that it will not come up with new issues to avoid going to Geneva for talks.
The facilitators and the truce monitors would also have to get an assurance that the LTTE would "de-escalate" the violence in the North East, Rambukwella said
Earlier, the LTTE had rejected the offer of a small helicopter as it had 32 (now 40) people to be transported. It had also said that the small chopper was a security risk.
Reasons for denial of air force chopper
Asked why the government had backed out of the earlier practice of giving the LTTE a heavy duty Air Force chopper, Media Minister Anura Priyadarshana Yapa said that after the assassination of Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar, the practice of giving Air Force helicopters to the LTTE had been given up.
Air Force choppers were to be given only for travel between Kilinochchi and the Colombo international airport during peace talks.
There was no provision or obligation for giving air transport between two LTTE-held sectors, he said.
The LTTE could travel by road with Sri Lankan Army escort, he said.
This time round, the LTTE wanted an Air Force chopper for getting its Commanders and cadres from the Eastern sector to the Northern sector for consultations ahead of the Geneva talks.
Government said that there was no provision for this. But as an alternative, it offered sea transportation by a naval ship. To this, the LTTE said that it would not board a Sri Lankan navy ship.
The government then offered a civilian ship with naval escort. The LTTE first agreed to this. But suddenly, at the time of boarding in Mullaitivu, it pointed to the Sri Lankan naval presence and aborted the transportation.
The government, always going the extra mile in its anxiety to get the LTTE to come for talks, offered a civilian chopper, Rambukwella said.
But the LTTE said that the chopper was too small, besides being a security risk.
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